Words about Merlin
From: Martie Weatherly (martiewearthlink.net)
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 2004 14:59:59 -0700 (PDT)
Liberty Village faced a devastating loss last week with the sudden death
of our founder and dear friend, Merlin Porter-Borden. He was the one who
heard about cohousing 15 years ago and never gave up or slackened in
pouring his heart and soul into our community.  The best testimonial to
the strength of the community he started has been how we have come
together in the past week. I want to share some of that and then follow
it with  the words I spoke at his memorial service about his role in
Liberty Village.

We came together that first night for dinner and have been eating a meal
together every night since. The third night we had a sharing circle.
There were about 30 people, mostly us with family and friends of Merlin.
 We started slowly, with tears and remembrances, but as the time went
on, we started including the things that ticked us off, too  - the way
someone would say "ground source heating" and get a half hour talk, and
then went on to the practical jokes he played. We talked, laughed and
cried together for 2 and a half hours, and it was very healing.

Our outside bulletin board has been most beautifully decorated with
pictures of Merlin against a beautiful purple background, with fresh
flowers and notes from friends.

After the memorial service, we had almost 200 people back here for a pot
luck. As usual, our community pulled it off without a hitch - picnic
tables lines up, table cloths, flowers and lots of food. We reconnected
with old friends and made new ones who knew Merlin.

We are now facing our planning meetings for next year and are going to
take time for people to share together in this family we have created.
We will continue to support each other as we move ahead to fulfill his
dream of building our common house and completing our community.

Thanks to those who have sent condolences. Below is what I said at his memorial service and it will give you a picture of him:

Merlin has a tee shirt that he got at a national cohousing conference a
number of years ago, the front of which says “Cohousing” and the back of
which says: the longest and most expensive personal growth therapy
you’ll ever take!   For Merlin, after 15 years of personal growth,  he
was still going strong. And you can believe that he was seeing that the
rest of us were growing personally also.

Merlin read about cohousing in an article that John Buetler wrote for
the Common Market magazine in 1989. Merlin told me later that what
interested him was that he wouldn’t have to drive his children to their
friends’ homes. He wanted his family to live in a community where his
children knew everyone, where they could play freely with their friends,
and where his neighbors worked together to make the community work – in
other words, cohousing.

But Merlin wasn’t one to sit by and wait for someone else to make this
kind of community happen. From that beginning idea in December of 1989,
Merlin threw himself heart and soul into making the dream of cohousing
become real.

So with Tom Lofft and John Beutler, they started the daunting task of
building a group and looking for land. It is amazing that in this day of
large developers building cities out of large tracts of land, Merlin and
his team kept following their dream, spending their Sundays looking at
different parcels of land and having meeting after meeting after meeting.

As an anonymous writer wrote about Commitment:
        “It is making the time when there is none. Coming through, time after
time after time, year after year after year. Commitment is the stuff
character is made of; the power to change the face of things. It is the
daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.”

That was Merlin.  The owners of the first property wouldn’t sell – find
another. The zoning for the Pride of Joy farm wasn’t right – work with
the county to write cohousing into the zoning. When we were digging
wells, and the first five didn’t have enough water, try the sixth. When
the sixth well didn’t work – design another way.

And he never gave up. He was never discouraged. He never complained. He
never even seemed impatient. He just kept encouraging us to keep going,
to work with the county, to have our dream community.

So all of us who live in Liberty Village now, have him to thank. We
wouldn’t be there except for him. We wouldn’t all have homes we love and
a community that is family, not just neighbors. Liberty Village is just
the best.

But there is more. Merlin was one of the first people in this area to
build cohousing. We now have six cohousing communities in the DC area,
and he was the prime reason for three of them. He supported cohousing on
a national level, went to conferences, put forth ideas on the cohousing
listserve. He was always forwarding ideas to us – read this about ground
source heating – here’s some more to read about consensus.

Years ago when a woman with a disability wrote on the listserve,
concerned that she wouldn’t be able to help her community enough, he

        “People put into cohousing what they are willing, able and inspired to
give. Of our 21 families, the range of effort expended ranges from huge
to small, but we accept, gratefully, every small bit of help. We give
without expectations for the level of effort of others.  The desire to
help is nurtured in an environment of acceptance of whatever people are
willing to contribute.”

Merlin put in huge amounts of time. He was a member of the three man
development team and reviewed the installation of all our
infrastructure.  Before we lived here, when they planted the trees along
the berm and they had to be watered, he actually got people up  to come
out at 4:30 am to water them before it got too hot! He designed and put
in a drip system for watering our trees (maybe to keep from having to
get up at 4:30 all the time!). He designed our parking lot lights and
did a large part of the work  He was on most of our major teams, came to
meetings, took minutes, and was an administrative partner.

Recently he spent hours reading about the problems with the sewage
treatment system, talking to county staff, and commissioners and then
explaining to us what it all meant.

There are so many little things to thank Merlin for:  the system of
moving our cars to clear the parking lots of snow (“first on the east
side, then move to the west side”) and our task list where we pin
everyone down “By when will you have that done?”

In fact, one problem that we have to face now is that we really don’t
know all he did. We will just have to see what breaks and then figure
out how to fix it, once we find it.

So Merlin, even though you never wanted to be called “The Leader” in a
community based on consensus decision making, you led us to our
community where our neighbors are family. We take up the baton from you
now, dear friend, and move on to build 20 more homes and, most
importantly,  our common house. We will not waver from your dream, as we
fulfill our mission statement, the last lines of which are:  “To have a
common house filled with the sights and sounds of an active caring
community, and to celebrate life!”

In peace,
Martie Weatherly
martiew [at] earthlink.net


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